Hurricane Michael is just starting to wind down. Emergency services officials are starting to put together a plan for search and rescue. They will have very limited resources.
They will go door to door but it will take days to get to everyone.
If people are injured and trapped, they need to do something to make themselves more visible, like hang sheets out a window.
Schools are being set up as triage centers until the bridges are reopened.
Rescuers will set out in about an hour to start search and rescue.
There are tornadoes on the ground.
An extreme wind warning is in effect Panama City, Lynn Haven, and Callaway until 3:15 p.m. for winds in excess of 130 mph.The National Weather Service is advising people to treat these imminent extreme winds as if a tornado was approaching and move immediately to an interior room or shelter
With the eye of the storm fast approaching, the conditions are rapidly deteriorating.
Reports are coming of damage to buildings, including some places that it is known that people stayed inside. This is the time to shelter in a safe area of your home, such as an interior room away from windows.
10:58 a.m. Power off, back on at our offices at The News Herald, 501 W. 11th St. Generators kicked on, power is flickering in our area. We may lose internet at some point and will relocated to backup locations, weather permitting.
10:45 a.m. Most law enforcement officers have now been ordered to take shelter. Reports building of trees down, roads flooded, power poles and lines down with Michael roughly 50 miles or so offshore. Thunder growing, skies darkening even more.
10: 40 a.m. Video arriving from Apalachicola, where winds are picking up and authorities have taken shelter. https://youtu.be/ZFr-btBNJTs
10:25 a.m. "Bay county to all units report to your sheltering station at this time." That was Bay County EOC dispatch handling all law enforcement, and they've been told to seek shelter immediately. Conditions are worsening. Reports of flooded roads, power poles and lines down, winds hitting 60+ mph, and it's just the beginning. Bridge remains closed. Power outages coming in. Booming thunder more and more evident even inside large buildings.
This is a rolling story that will be continuously updated:
Verizon is offering free unlimited data in hurricane areas for Verizon customers.
Gulf Power has multiple outages (see photo above).
Winds have surpassed 50 miles per hour on the Hathaway Bridge and it is no longer safe to cross.
Citizens are urged to stay off the roads and seek shelter in place.
Emergency services are stopping for everywhere except Panama City.
Joby Smith, emergency management division chief in Bay County: all emergency services have been suspended in Bay County except in the City of Panama City, who will only respond to life-threatening emergencies.
"We're no longer responding to emergency medical responses or fire responses in all areas except for the City of Panama City," Smith said. "They are still going to dispatch their units as long as it's safe for them to do so. It is getting close to that time that they are not going to be able to be out on the road in Panama City as well."
Smith encouraged people to shelter in place and not get on the road. Currently, he said, there's not an influx of calls.
Updates from BCSO:
Tommy Ford is at the main office on 77 monitoring conditions. They are not sure exactly when first responders won't be able to get out to people but they expect it will happen at some point.
Deputies are aware they won't be able to go out at some point and will head to safe shelters. They're still out on the roads now. They will resume answering service calls once they're able to. Corley said they might get service calls for stranded people. It may be more difficult with debris in the road.
They are not sure when bridges will close but that's expected at some point.
It's time to stay in place.
Lynn Haven has stopped running emergency services posting, "The City of Lynn Haven will not be running EMS or Fire Emergency Services until further notice. We pray for your well being and safety."
The National Hurricane Center is saying this storm will be "potentially catastrophic."
"Reports from an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that maximum sustained winds have increased to near 145 mph with higher gusts," the 7 a.m. report says. "Michael is an extremely dangerous category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Some additional strengthening is possible before landfall. After landfall, Michael should weaken as it crosses the southeastern United States."
Some are saying it could strengthen to a category 5.
The wind are expected to hit 45 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 185 miles.
The storm surge is expected to be 9 to 14 ft from Tyndall Air Force Base FL to Aucilla River and 6 to 9 ft from Okaloosa/Walton County Line FL to Tyndall Air Force Base.
Life threatening conditions are starting to occur in Bay County. People are being told to seek shelter now.
Officials say to seek shelter in an interior room with few windows and stay inside.
Hurricane Michael is expected to make landfall with wind speeds up to 145 mph, making it a Category 4. This would be the first time a Category 4 storm makes landfall in the Panhandle.
As of 4 a.m. officials were still urging people to evacuate, saying people had until about 5:30 a.m. to safely evacuate. The window for evacuation has closed, according to County Commissioner Robert Carroll, and people should now be prepared to shelter in place.
The storm surge, Gov. Rick Scott has said is what "scares the living daylights out of me," and he is "praying for every single family in our state."
10:00 p.m. The latest Hurricane Michael Advisory says the storm "continues to strengthen" and will bring life-threatening storm surge and hurricane fore winds to our area. It was located 220 south-southwest of Panama City; 200 miles south-southwest of Apalachicola with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph.
It is continuing to move north at about 12 mph.
9:20 p.m. The Coast Guard announces it is moving "assets and personnel" away from area that may be impacted by the hurricane. Citizens are urged to heed all warnings from local officials and to call 911 or use Channel 16 VHF to report emergences. For updates on port statuses, follow Coast Guard Heartland Twitter @USCGHeartland
9:15 p.m. The Emergency Department at the main hospital campus of Bay Medical Sacred Heart at 615 N. Bonita Ave. announced it will remain open during the storm. Care of patients continues uninterrupted at the hospital. However, the Beach Emergency Room (1111 Panama City Beach Parkway) closed Tuesday at noon and will reopen after the storm. The next update will come at 10 a.m. Wednesday.
8:30 p.m. Merritt Brown Middle School is closed as a shelter. Rutherford High School at 1000 School Avenue in Springfield is opening as a pet-friendly, general population shelter.
7 p.m. Hurricane Michael was continuing to strengthen as of the 7 p.m. advisory as it continued its journey toward the Florida Panhandle.
The storm was located 255 miles south of Panama City and was moving north at 12 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Winds remained at 120 mph, but the central pressure had fallen to 953 millibars.
The center said Michael was becoming much better organized and posed a grave threat to the Panhandle.
It was expected to continue intensifying overnight and would be near category 4 status on Wednesday morning.
Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 45 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles.
The next advisory from the Hurricane Center will be issued at 10 p.m.
6 p.m. Officials are concerned not enough people are evacuating as the National Hurricane Center is predicting storm surge could be up to 13 feet near Mexico Beach.
At a press conference, local officials were urging people to in the evacuation zones while there is still a window of opportunity.
4:30 p.m. Deane Bozeman School is at capacity as a shelter for both general population and special needs. Northside Elementary is nearing capacity for general population and Merritt Brown Middle School, 5044 Merritt Brown Way in Panama City, is open as a shelter.
4 P.M. What the Hurricane Center has been predicting has come to pass - Hurricane Michael has strengthened into a major hurricane.
As of the 4 p.m. advisory Tuesday, Michael had winds of 120 mph. The pressure was down to 957 millibars. The hurricane was moving north at 12 mph.
In its discussion, the center said the environment ahead of Michael was conducive to intensification. It expected the storm to turn due north tonight, then northeastward on Wednesday.
Tropical storm watches and warnings were raised along the East Coast on Tuesday afternoon.
1 P.M. The 1 p.m. advisory on Hurricane Michael is out, and not much has changed from the previous report.
Michael's winds remain at 110 mph and the storm continues to move north-northwest at 12 mph. The central pressure remains 965 millibars.
The hurricane was located at about 335 miles south of Panama City.
There was no change in the watches and warnings lineup from the previous advisory.
With only eight hours until tropical storm force winds are expected in the area, officials are expressing concern that Bay County residents are not taking the evacuations seriously.
"I'm concerned because I don't think people are paying attention," said Congressman Neal Dunn.
A mandatory evacuation has been ordered for zones A, B and C in Bay County, which includes all of Panama City Beach and parts of Lynn Haven, Panama City, Parker and Mexico Beach.
The storm is currently a Category 2, with wind speeds gusting at 135 miles per hour. Dunn said the storm could make landfall as Category 3 storm, and 50 percent of the models show it landing as a Category 4. The storm surge is predicted to be six to nine feet, if the storm lands to the east of Tyndall Air Force Base.
"This is going to be the worst storm surge in living memory in Bay County," he said. "This is a pretty big storm."
Deane Bozeman School, 13410 Hwy 77, and Northside Elementary, 2001 Northside Dr., are open as shelters. Three days of supplies, including for pets, are recommended for anyone going to a shelter.
For people who are having difficulties evacuating — such as not having enough gas — Dunn said resources are available to help evacuate if people call the Emergency Operation Center at 850-784-4000.
Brad Monroe, deputy chief of Emergency Services in Bay County said preparations are being made for post-storm recovery efforts, said Monroe, who noted local officials have been in contact with state and federal officials.
“We’ve had a good bit of interaction with higher level politicians. That’s where we’ll need their help mostly, in the recovery. We have what we need in place and a good plan for the storm,” Monroe said. “We’re glad to see a lot of folks evacuating in the zones. That’s important because during the event, it will be difficult for us to reach anybody.”
Local officials continued to stress the risk from storm surge, which could bring high levels of water.
“We know from past experiences the storm surge is the most deadly part of the storm. There’s a little bit of speculation as to what the tides” will do to the bay, Monroe said. “We have good data on the tides. It will depend on if the storm stalls offshore or if it comes on in rapidly. The latest indications are it should move through pretty quickly. If so, the water should come in and go out in a reasonable time. We have no way of knowing that for sure.”
10:30 a.m. Tuesday
With the evacuation underway, Panama City has joined the county in declaring a state of emergency.
“The governor declares it and then there are all kinds of agencies we have access to,” Mayor Greg Brudnicki said after the meeting. “We want to err on the side of caution and help keep people safe.”
The mayor urged people to consider leaving.
Wind gusts could be over 100 mph when the storm makes landfall tomorrow, and tropical storm force winds could be felt as early as tonight.
The county has opened Deane Bozeman as an emergency shelter and Northside will open as a secondary special needs shelter is Bozeman fills.
6 p.m. Monday
The Panhandle and Big Bend region of Florida is bracing for Hurricane Michael, which according to the latest National Hurricane Center projections, could make landfall as a dangerous Category 3 storm Wednesday afternoon.
Mandatory evacuations in Bay County have been ordered for evacuation zones A, B and C starting at 6 a.m. Monday.
While the track is still uncertain, landfall is likely to the east of Bay County, between Port St. Joe and Apalachicola, around 1 p.m. Wednesday, but impacts will be widely felt. A Hurricane Watch and Storm Surge watch has been issued for much of Northwest Florida, including Bay County. Tropical Storm-force winds are expected to reach the region by 8 p.m. Tuesday night.
Wind speeds in excess of 100 mph are possible with this storm, with hurricane-force winds extending about 35 mph from the center.
Local law enforcement have now been given the authority to close FDOT-controlled bridges, such as the Hathaway, West Bay and DuPont bridges, and they will make the call. There is no windspeed threshold.
Maximum sustained winds inside the storm have increased to 75 mph and the storm is expected to strengthen as it travels over the Gulf of Mexico Tuesday and Wednesday.
This is a developing story and will be updated as we know more.